The Great Technology Eschewing: How I Started Living For Myself

The Great Technology Eschewing: How I Started Living For Myself


We’ve all heard the saying “Keeping up with the Joneses.” The Joneses are our neighbors. Our neighbors who show off their new car. Our neighbors who show off their neatly-trimmed lawn. Our neighbors who brag about vacation.

The advice has always been to stop trying to “compete” with your neighbor.

Today, everyone is our neighbor.

Thanks to technology, we know what everyone is doing all the time. We know about all the new cars, the new houses, the vacations, the weight loss, the weddings, the babies. By being surrounded by this much “showing off”, it is difficult not to feel like we have to compete and keep up with everything.

The “competition” that is provoked by instant-communication often results in doing things just to say we did them. And buying things just to show other people we have them. Buying things we don’t need just to tell people about them. Buying things we sometimes don’t even want, because it feels like we should own them.

I had begun to realize that text messages were not a fulfilling method of communication and phone games were not a fulfilling method of a challenge (for me). I found myself using my phone instead of reading and asked myself what the heck I was doing.

In February, I stopped using my cell phone.

The first weekend night I went out without my cellphone was… weird.

The plan was, my friends were going to Bar A at 9p then possibly move to another bar in the area. To make sure I caught them before they switched bars, I showed up just after 9p and found them in the bar without a problem. I found the bar sans cell phone just by checking google maps before I left.

I’m hanging out with my friends when the topic changes to something I’m not interested in. I instinctively reach for my phone in my bag, then remember a second later that it’s not there.

Then I asked myself, “I am here with these friends. Why would I be rude and text other friends right now? If I don’t want to be with these friends, I should just go home.”

And then I had to suck it up and pay attention to the conversation.

I had to pay attention to the people I chose to hang out with.

After the weekend being a success, I decided to keep it up during the week. This was much easier as I have Internet access at work and can send texts from Google Voice.

I told my friends about my cell phone eradication and they all thought I was crazy but accepted it. People emailed me instead of called me. I still saw people, we still hung out. Friends knew to set a time and a place instead of just “I’ll text you later.” I had absolutely no issues.

I kept this up from February to Present.

After not using my phone for 6 months, I no longer feel as attached/addicted to it as I did before. I no longer use it to measure how much people like me (how often people text me). Or to neurotically check my email and twitter.

This extrication is not about money, it’s about quality of life.

I was present.

I paid attention to where I was walking, standing, who I was talking to. I was more conscious of plans and directions.

I replaced my phone with two things: A moleskine calendar. And a NYC moleskine guide book that includes a subway map & individual street maps of four of the boroughs. In the back of this was blank paper so I would write down addresses to places.

Between the address & the maps & pre-planning, I never missed having google maps or gps at hand.

Granted, this is much easier in NYC where many things are on a grid, asking people for directions is acceptable and subway maps are accessible.

Since I couldn’t look up 5 star food places on Yelp, I found myself exploring on my own.

Going to the places I wanted to go to without the world telling me it was great. I made my own decisions. I discovered my own favorite restaurants.

Sure, I couldn’t look up a cupcake place in the area, so if I didn’t stumble upon one, I just went without. And I survived.

The next step was deactivating Facebook.

I know Facebook doesn’t force us to talk about ourselves or to compare ourselves, but we do.

And I found myself feeling a lot more confident in my decisions when I had nothing to compare them to.

It wasn’t until after saying goodbye to Facebook that I realized there were times in the past when I did things, just to tell people I did them.

One of the more interesting things that happened when I deactivated Facebook is I began emailing my friends. We would have actual conversations.

I found myself communicating with my friends more than I had with Facebook.


How do you feel your daily lifestyle has changed with new technologies? Have you noticed a change in your behavior based on social media?


8 Replies to “The Great Technology Eschewing: How I Started Living For Myself”

  1. Personally I try to eschew cell phone use while with friends, and often leave it behind at my apartment for entire days when we are hanging out. However many of my friends don’t do the same and i find myself sitting with the while they read facebook or play games.

    I am on facebook but not a big user. I go weeks and even months without checking it. I don’t generally post pictures or events in my life because of privacy concerns. I do like to check in occasionally to see what others are up to, but I usually find it’s not that much and move on.

  2. I suspect we’re on the brink a social media/smartphone backlash, because these two things – especially in combination – are really disconnecting us more than they’re connecting us.

    So last week I tried to leave my apartment without my cell phone to pick up a pizza I’d ordered online. Despite having done this dozens of times before, I had forgotten to click “Submit” on the final screen, and so my order hadn’t been placed. I had to go back home and take care of it (I’d used a 50% coupon that could only be used for online ordering). I was pissed at my first experiment of going 10 FREAKING MINUTES without my phone.

    I use Twitter because it doesn’t take over my life. If I don’t read or tweet for a day or a week, I’m unaffected. But I do it because, working from home, I need some interaction that isn’t work-related. I really do, given the line of work I’m in.

    My Smartphone does make it possible for me not to be tethered to my home, because I can quick-answer emails on the fly. I find it very freeing – but then I get very few calls or texts to begin with. However…I do want to cut back on checking for emails (the notification noise is unreliable so I look every 3 mins – so NOT necessary). And I just have Words With Friends on my phone, but I’ve started to think about deleting it. Even if it is just the line at Starbucks, being present and engaged offline feels really necessary.

    As for Starbucks – it’s not a meeting place anymore! Holy crap, everyone is glued to their iPads or laptops, and if they are there with someone, they don’t talk and just do stuff on their iPhones. It actually gives me the willies.

    1. I feel the same way as you do about Twitter, which is why I am still comfortable using it. It feels more informational or silly and less competitive to me, but that might just be specific to my feed.

  3. I think it is the rudest possible thing to pull out your cellphone in the middle of being with your friends to go on Facebook or text.

    If I am in the changing room and you’re waiting for me, or vice versa.. why not?

    NOT when I am in front of your face, however.

    I always shut off the phone, even to not have it ring and annoy me, I don’t bring it or I don’t even check it once I meet my friend.

    It’s simply rude. Like bringing out a book while with your friend and going: “MMmm hmm… *flips page*” ….

    I guess it’s just me being a bitch, but I can’t believe we’d pick a phone and texting other friends while with friends.

    1. “If I am in the changing room and you’re waiting for me, or vice versa.. why not?”

      You’re right, this is not rude or impolite to your friend. However, it bothers me that we can’t bear to stand-still & do nothing for 5 minutes. Interacting every single second of the day doesn’t give us a chance to openly think, process our problems, day dream, etc.

      Also, I like your book analogy!

  4. This is precisely why I refuse to get a smartphone. I know myself, and I know that have that at my fingertips would make me a total asshole. Plus, I like the serendipity of just finding things and not having map. I carry a dumb phone that mostly serves as a timepiece and alarm clock. I am perfectly content–more than content because I don’t have to panic and look everything up all the time.

  5. Couldnt agree more with you, phones have become a social crutch rather than a useful tool. Why do people feel the need to be so connected with everyone and everything 24/7, rather than living their own life?

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